SUMMIT, NJ - A grant from the Summit Educational Foundation (SEF) has brought Puppet Productions II, a new pop-up theatre, puppets and rolling case, to Lawton C. Johnson Summit Middle School (LCJSMS). The LCJSMS World Language Department will use this unique tool in the classrooms and for presentations to the elementary schools.

The original grant for Puppet Productions I was implemented several years ago and, over time, the stage and puppets have suffered natural wear and tear from student use. The idea for a second grant was not only to have a new set, but also to have a second set so that more students would be able to make use of the puppet theatres and to have a wider selection of types of puppets. The materials are used for all four languages – Spanish, French, Latin and Mandarin.

The pop-up puppet theatre serves as a creative tool to assist students in engaging in foreign language conversation and dialogue. Timothy Margiotta, LCJSMS Spanish teacher and the grant's author, explains that, "The theatre helps to lower anxiety for students speaking the target language, and acts as an effective filter because students are behind the curtain of the theatre. The puppet theatre gives students a comfort level and helps to draw students out.”
 
 
 In the classroom, the students create a scripted activity and put on skits involving different scenarios. For example, in his Spanish classes, Margiotta uses the puppet theatre in the health unit. The students use the puppets to play out conversations that would take place in the doctor’s office. The use of the theatre allows the students to gain confidence to then speak in a more improvisational manner when they are out from behind the curtain.

Students from LCJSMS also make presentations to the elementary schools to give them exposure to the foreign languages available to them in middle school in a fun, creative way. A different elementary school is visited each year. Four students from each language are selected, and they practice after school and during lunch for their performances. Each language group puts on a three to five minute skit of their choosing, with past skits including the French class performing a Goldilocks skit, and the Latin class ding a version of “Latin Idol."

Student Cole Model was enthusiastic about the puppet program, noting, “I really enjoy the puppet theatre. My Spanish-speaking puppet made learning to speak Spanish a lot of fun.”

To find out more about SEF, visit www.sefnj.org